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File-swappers' identities protected by Dutch court

Privacy laws

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A Dutch appeals court has thwarted attempts by the Dutch anti-piracy organisation BREIN to get the identities of file-sharers from five ISPs, including Wanadoo and Tiscali.

The court found that the manner in which IP addresses were collected and processed by US company MediaSentry had no lawful basis under European privacy laws. A lower court in Utrecht had reached a similar conclusion last year.

The court also argued that the software MediaSentry uses can't properly identify users or provide evidence of infringement.

Last year, expert witnesses at Delft University of Technology criticised MediaSentry's software for being too limited and simplistic. For instance, MediaSentry took filenames in Kazaa at face value. More importantly, the software scans all the content of the shared folder on the suspect's hard disk. In that process, it breached privacy laws.

The Dutch Protection Rights Entertainment Industry Netherlands (BREIN) represented 52 media and entertainment companies and has been investigating 42 people suspected of swapping song files. Nine file-sharers decided to settle with BREIN.

BREIN says it will go to a higher court, but lawyer Christiaan Alberdingk Thijm, who represented the ISPs, sees the decision as an important victory. ®

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